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Mapping Scotland’s International Future

By 6th July 2022 No Comments
logo for YAS Mapping Scotland International Project

Maria-Daniella Dick, Aude Le Guennec, Henry Lovat, Ulrich Schmiedel

YAS members and leaders of the ‘Mapping Scotland’s International Future” project

Scotland’s international future is a subject of continuing debate in Scotland, the UK, and internationally, with a breadth of views expressed in respect of the nation’s interests, capacities and voice.

The “Mapping Scotland’s International Future” project has been designed to support and inform RSE and YAS international strategies by better understanding YAS’s international expertise and capacity. The project also aligns closely with the YAS Grand Challenges of ‘Increasing Scotland’s Positive Role in the World’ and contributing to ‘A Well-Informed Society’. It has also been designed to speak to RSE aims to enhance engagement with national and global issues, and survey our potential to forge stronger national, international and cross-sector relationships; to promote Scotland’s interests and raise its profile; and to ensure that Scotland’s policy makers have access to national and global expertise.

The project has gathered perspectives from across YAS’s membership as to what Scotland’s international priorities should be; how these might be approached; and which issues YAS members deem of particular interest and urgency. We seek to understand the views of the YAS membership to inform YAS planning and strategy, and to consider how YAS might contribute to debate and policy in Scotland and internationally.

Canvassing members’ international expertise and our views on Scotland’s international future allows us not only to identify current priorities and positions, but going forward also to think about opportunities for developing sustainable and effective international affairs capacity from within YAS. We launched a survey of members in March 2021, asking a variety of closed and open questions. The first was a Likert-scale question asking respondents to identify areas of interest from among a list of issues including climate change, cultural relations / soft power, global and regional governance, defence and foreign policy, international public health, human rights, immigration, and trade and investment. We invited members to identify whether they have expertise or experience in any of these fields, and to tell us which international issues they deemed the most important ones facing Scotland now, as well as how Scottish actors – including YAS – might address them. Finally, we asked participants to tell us how they envision Scotland’s international future.

The responses span the public and private sectors, from business, charity, creative, legal, and academic spheres, and across a range of disciplines within academia from the sciences, arts and humanities, and social sciences.

Among the varied expressions, the suggestion that it is ‘impossible to think about Scotland’s future without thinking of its international dimensions’ was echoed in the consistent recourse to envisioning Scotland as ‘open’ and ‘welcoming’; as ‘progressive’; and as collaborative, ‘working with others to address global challenges’ and a ‘committed and active participant in global affairs’.

Responses also emphasised society and solidarity in meeting challenges nationally and globally, especially in Scotland’s European dimensions and in its integration into international decision-making.

Within this context, YAS is considered ideally placed as a space for ‘working productively in any context […] with networks across the world’, to ‘speak strategically and from a stance of multidisciplinary expertise to relevant questions of policy and international affairs’, and to play ‘a critical role [..] in setting the tone for reasoned and informed debate’.

We hope that this project will now help to inform reflection within YAS, and that we can use its insights to think next about two further outcomes: a directory of membership expertise, and policy debate and collaboration with external partners, stakeholders and other Young Academies.